Foggy Days in Eureka

Eureka fog (4) Early this morning we woke to see the park lights muted by fog.  As the light came slowly, the fog didn’t lift at all.  Kayaking anywhere around Humboldt Bay requires working with the tides, and high tide was coming in today around 11am.  If we were to get out on the water and back without getting stranded on a mudflat, we needed to be out by 10 at the latest.  At ten, the fog was a thick as ever.  I know we could have gone anyway, but somehow boating unknown waters when you can’t see anything anyway isn’t very enticing.  On to Plan B.


We got a great free publication from the RV manager called  “101 Things to Do Humboldt”. The best part for us was the centerfold map of Humboldt Bay with all the boat launching sites and descriptions of kayaking options.  Still, in the fog, the description of nearby Ferndale sounded much more inviting.  Visiting Ferndale is like visiting the past.  The entire Main Street has been designated a national Register Historic District due to the finely preserved commercial and residential buildings.  Rich bottom land and plentiful grass supports a still thriving dairy industry, which has sustained the community since the late 1800’s.  The ornate “Painted Ladies” were once called “Butterfat Palaces”. 

11_04_20101 There is a fascinating mix of shops, including a real drugstore, the oldest continuously operating drugstore in California. We ambled through town, taking our time looking at “stuff”, some of it beautiful art, and some of it just a bunch of “stuff”.  The only temptation for me came with the yarn shop.  Knitters know that this hobby isn’t about knitting as much as it is about yarn!  I managed to get out of there without buying a gorgeous hank of hand dyed mohair that really called to me.  I have two bins of “stash” including some truly gorgeous wool, silk, mohair, and other amazing yarns, so I practiced self-control and didn’t buy any.

Ferndale (13) In another specialty shop, the owner spent some time laughing with us about how hard it is to decorate a very tall tree when you are very short, and then proceeded to give us the history of the store.  Almost every single shopkeeper asked us from where we hailed.  It was leisurely and fun and I only spent a small amount on a bottle of yummy orange blossom hand lotion. 

Ferndale (34) After wandering the downtown area, we ambled up the hill to the cemetery, one of the most amazing cemeteries I have seen since New Orleans.  It’s on a hill overlooking the town and some of the plots date back to the 1890’s.  The view toward the ocean overlooking the town was beautiful.

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By this time, Abby had been waiting in the car long enough so we decided to drive west to the Centerville beach area.  With the fog lifting a bit, we thought a bit about trying to put the boats in the slough, but the tide was already going out and our timing would be off.  The trip out to the beach meanders along a small road that passes dairies and farmhouses, even a very old abandoned Victorian is total disrepair, a perfect haunted house. 

The beach was open and empty, no other cars or people in sight, and the wind wasn’t blowing hard either, just a nice ocean breeze.  The sun lifted a bit and we got in a great beach walk, which Abby loved as well.  Back to the car, the narrow road led up the hill into nowhere, so of course we had to go check it out.  On the GPS I could see we were near the ocean, but the little car icon was cruising through no man’s land, no road supposedly there at all.  Google Maps on the phone could see some semblance of road, but of course reception was spotty or non existent. 

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We traveled on anyway, up and down and around, until we came upon a BLM parking area and a sign for the Guthrie Creek Trailhead.  Yay!  Abby could go with us, and there wasn’t a soul in sight, and no cars parked at the trailhead.  It seems now that with a couple of pricey kayaks on the top of the car we are a bit reluctant to leave it parked in the middle of nowhere.  We figured we were safe enough here, and headed down the trail.  Sure enough, as soon as we set out a man appeared coming up the trail.  We couldn’t figure out where he came from, but he was nice and we visited a bit while he told us he was “camping” on some property he had nearby.  Hmmm.  At least he didn’t have a car to carry off the boats!  We have a bolt cutter proof bike cable and plan to at least lock the two boats together on the racks so someone would have a heck of a time getting them down.

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The trail was perfect, not too steep, wide and mowed with beautiful views of the ocean and Guthrie Creek below us. The fog was coming in again and the wind was pretty stiff once beyond the protection of the hills at the view overlook area, so we turned back.  It would be good hike to go all the way down to the beach.  Again, with the high surf and sneaker waves around we thought it might not be a day to actually go down to the closed in beach.

Ferndale (78) We topped off the afternoon with a side trip to the Loleta Cheese Factory.  In Oregon, Tillamook cheese is quite famous, and they have tours of the factory and cheese tasting.  Oregon also has Bandon cheese, in my opinion, even better than Tillamook.  The Loleta Cheese Factory was a real treat, different in that much more of the cheese making process here is by hand.  It is a small, family run business that produces medal winning cheeses and 34 varieties made in small batches using traditional recipes to maintain the old flavors.  I didn’t know until today that the kind of cheese depends on the culture added when the cheese is first made.

Our side trip to taste cheese and watch it made seemed like a great thing to do in an area that owed it’s history and economy to the dairy industry. We arrived late in the afternoon and the cheese makers were just emptying the last vat of cheese, but the young woman at the counter explained the whole process to us while we snacked on tiny tidbits of the tastiest cheese I have tried yet.  Especially wonderful was the organic all natural white cheddar, aged about a year and a half so far, with no hormones or antibiotics fed to the cows.  It turned out to be a lovely day seeing new things and new places.

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Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

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